Two days after applications opened for the new coronavirus emergency aid benefit, (CERB) some Canadians awoke to find two separate payments from the government in their bank accounts.
There’s no need to panic, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos clarified during a press conference on Wednesday. The second deposit is a retroactive payment, he said, and it will occur for many Canadians as thousands of payments and applications are processed by the Canada Revenue Agency this week.
“This is $2,000 per four weeks. So there are Canadians that received a retroactive payment dating from March 15, because that’s when the benefit can be applied,” he said.
“So from March 15 to April 11 is the first four week period, during which a $2,000 payment would have been made yesterday or perhaps today.”
He said the second payment people might see would apply to the following period, starting on April 11.
“But let’s be very clear, it’s $2,000 per month… Regardless of when that $2,000 is actually deposited in his or her bank account,” he cautioned.
“So these people have received two payments, one retroactively.”
Some applicants told Global News they received two of these $2,000 sums on Wednesday.
Many took to Twitter and other social media platforms to point out the double payment, concerned it could be an error.
The CRA and ESDC did not provide answers clarifying what constituted an error in payment before this article was published.
“They said we’d get $2,000 a month, so that’s obviously double,” said Joanna Lalewicz, who woke up to find two payments of $2,000 in her account.
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The Mississauga, Ont., woman applied for the emergency benefit and employment insurance after she was laid off from her job at an Etobicoke restaurant that shut down.
“If it’s not mine, then please take it back,” she said.
Brooklynn Ratzlaff, from Edmonton, Alta., applied for employment insurance after she was laid off from a chiropractor clinic she worked at on March 20. She also received two payments — one for $1,000 and another for $2,000, both labeled as EI.
“I did my first EI report, so those payments were processed yesterday, and I was expecting them this morning, which I did get,” Ratzlaff told Global News. “I also got a separate payment of $2,000.”
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit pays $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months to workers who have lost all of their income as a result of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
The CERB program is open both to Canadians who qualify for employment insurance (EI) and those who don’t, as long as they have lost their income due to COVID-19. For those who became eligible for EI on March 15 or later, those EI claims are to be automatically transferred to CERB.
To qualify for the CERB, a worker must have earned at least $5,000 in the last year, either not worked or don’t expect to work for 14 days in the initial four-week period, and have lost all their income.
Canadians eligible for both CERB and EI should apply for CERB, the government has said.
For those who qualify for CERB but have previously applied for EI, claims will be automatically processed under CERB.
The CRA opened its application portals for CERB on April 6 at 6 a.m. ET for those born in the first three months of the year. Canadians born in other months are to apply later in the week. The staggering of applications was intentional so that the CRA’s website wouldn’t crash under the weight of thousands of applications.
The process so far has been relatively successful for most Canadians — aside from a few hiccups.
Still, the double payment had many online concerned about the possibility one would need to be paid back.
Service Canada is working with the CRA on rolling out the benefit. The agency is part of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which together are responsible for managing employment insurance claims. The CRA and ESDC are in charge of the new CERB applications.
Global News also asked the CRA and ESDC what Canadians should do if they see two payments and whether, in some cases, the money will be taken back, but didn’t receive answers prior to publication. This story will be updated once a response is received.
–With files from Global News’ Erica Alini and the Canadian Press